Job change: How many companies should you apply for?

Representative image

Representative image

May and June are the usual seasons. You get your annual hike (and/or promotion) and are very upset about it. Negotiations for a pay hike haven’t worked out and quitting the job is the only option.

Now what? How many jobs should you apply for? Isn’t it better to wait for one job application to complete its course instead of applying for multiple roles?

This is where you are mistaken. If you mentally prepared to quit the job and have started looking for other options, applying for a single job does no good. Companies take a minimum of 4-6 weeks from the time you apply to the interviews and the final selection.

Nitish Karande, a Mumbai-based banker learnt it the hard way. Karande felt that his career trajectory was going downhill and his employer was insensitive to the workers’ needs.

But the last time Karande applied for a job was in 2003. Things have significantly changed since then. Interviews are virtual, video resumes are in demand and younger people with technology skills are the hot new favourites.

“My 80s upbringing had taught me that it was unfair for me to interview at multiple companies at the same time. It was almost like cheating. What I didn’t realise is that the hiring market has undergone a sea-change. Initially, I applied to just a single company and kept waiting for weeks for the process to at least begin. Only when I contacted a hiring consultant did I realise what I was doing wrong ,” says Karande.

Within three weeks, he had applied for 11 jobs and after a wait of two months he received two job offers. Karande opted for a fintech company.

So, what is the perfect number? It depends purely on your skills and the sector you work for.

For niche skills like R programming or actuarial sciences, demand always outstrips supply. In these cases, applying for four to five companies could be sufficient.

On the other hand, for generic skills like digital marketing or transactional banking, there could up to 700 applicants for a single job. In such cases, it is necessary to diversify the application process.

Hiring consultants would say that the more number of jobs you apply for, the better are your chances of landing a job. Considering that there are close to 5.5 million Indians suddenly unemployed after the COVID-19 lockdown led to job cuts, that would be a wise decision.

But this does not mean that you should blindly apply for any and every company you can land your sight on.

On professional networking sites like LinkedIn, job-seekers often make the mistake of tagging all the companies in the sector asking for vacant positions. This is a strategy that will never help you get an alternate role.

Instead, sit and strategise. What are your strong skill sets and which are the companies that will value them? List out five to six companies that would like to work for and start working on your application.

The resume stays the same but the cover letter has to be different for each company, even if it is the same sector doing the exact same business.

A job switch can be tiring but the good part is that you have the bargaining power to negotiate salaries. Keep track of the companies that you have applied for, the interview dates.

Ensure that two interview time slots are not right next to each other. So, if an X bank interview is at 11 am, the next interview slot cannot be 12 pm. Ask the recruiter for an alternate time, say 2 pm or 3 pm so that you have adequate time to prepare for the probable questions.

The phrase ‘the more, the merrier’ would fit well for your job switch plans. It all boils down to how you perform in those 20-30 minutes of the interview. Even if you don’t make it to the next round, it is still a lesson learnt.